In 2013 I went on a tour of the jewels of the north - the magnificent Diamond Circle tour. On this 12-hour-tour the most magnificent sights in North-Iceland are visited including Goðafoss waterfall, Mývatn, the mud pools at the geothermal area by Námafjall, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Dettifoss, and the amazing Hljóðaklettar Echo Rocks, together with Ásbyrgi in Jökulsárgljúfur glacial canyon. You will also visit Tjörnes and Húsavík, the whale watching capital of North-Iceland.
Our first stop was at the historical Goðafoss waterfall. Goðafoss waterfall is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. It drops 12 meters and has a width of 30 meters and is situated in the 178 kilometres long glacial river, Skjálfandafljót.
The name of Goðafoss stems from when the conversion to Christianity was made in the year 1000. Þorgeir ljósvetningagoði, the ex-pagan chieftain, right after returning from Alþingi Parliament where the conversion was made, threw his statues of the pagan Norse gods into the waterfall. And the waterfall got its name Goðafoss "The waterfall of the gods".
Lava pillars by lake Mývatn
Our second stop was a short photo stop by the lava pillars by Lake Mývatn where we stopped for 5-10 minutes. Lake Mývatn is Iceland's 4th largest lake and was created in a basaltic lava eruption 2300 years ago. The surrounding landscape in the Mývatn area is extraordinary. There are so many wonderful lava formations in this area, including the lava pillars by and in Lake Mývatn and Dimmuborgir.
We also made a stop at the supermarket to stock up on food and drinks as we were headed out into uninhabited areas.
Mt. Námafjall and the boiling mud pools
We now headed out to Mt. Námafjall and the high-temperature area, Hverarönd. So our third stop was made amongst boiling and bubbling mud pools in a part of Iceland which looks like you have landed on the moon.
This high-temperature geothermal area is often referred to as Hell's Kitchen as it is boiling and steaming and there is an overwhelming smell of sulphur in the air caused by the steam and the fumarole gas. If you join the Mývatn tour offered by Saga Travel, then you will get more time at this amazing area.
Our fourth stop was at the western side of the amazing Dettifoss waterfall. There is a 10-15 minute's walk down to the waterfall and our guide joined us and stayed with us for the whole duration of this tour, which I find very reassuring. I have joined tours where there was limited or no guidance and would always recommend fully guided tours to our guests.
Dettifoss is Europe's most powerful waterfall and it has got the wow factor big time. It is 45 meters high and 100 meters wide and has a flow of 193 m3/s.
Dettifoss is situated in the glacial river, Jökulsá á Fjöllum, which is the second longest river in Iceland. The water in glacial rivers is milky white and greyish - and ice cold, so lets be careful here. The river originates in Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier in Europe.
Hljóðaklettar - Echo Rocks
After visiting Dettifoss we were driven further north Jökulsárgljúfur glacial canyon and made our fifth stop by the extraordinary Hljóðaklettar - Echo Rocks. Here a whole valley of extraordinary rock formation opens up.
These extraordinary rock formations, many of them standing in the middle of Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river, are the remains of volcanoes which have been eroded for centuries after centuries by the strong currents and floods of the river. Jökulsá á Fjöllum glacial river runs from Dettifoss and Vatnajökull glacier, leaving only these extraordinary volcanic plugs behind.
I always feel like I am in another world while walking on the trails which lead through the extraordinary rock and basalt column formations of Hljóðaklettar. The volcanic plugs take on the form of so many creatures and are so big that you feel like a small ant while walking through this ruggedly beautiful landscape.
We made our sixth stop in my all time favourite place in Iceland, Ásbyrgi, the Capital City of the Icelandic Elves.
Our guide took us to the most beautiful (in my opinion) part of Ásbyrgi, the serene Botnstjörn pond. There is an easy walk (0,8 km) to the pond from the parking lot.
This pond is what is left of a big waterfall which once cascaded from the cliffs and it is unbelievably peaceful there. I can tell you that in my eyes this pond and the surrounding cliffs are like out of this world and I could stay there for hours, which I have done many times during my camping trips to Ásbyrgi.
Ásbyrgi belongs to Vatnajökull National Park and is 3.5 km in length and 1.1 km across with the walls being up to 100 meters high. My photo above was taken on an earlier trip I took to Ásbyrgi, where I hiked on Eyjan - the island, which is in the middle of Ásbyrgi.
After our visit to the pond there was a half an hours coffee break at the cafè - supermarket at Ásbyrgi.
Our eighth stop was made at Tjörnes peninsula where there are colonies of puffins during their nesting season in Iceland from April until mid-August. I adore this beautiful bird with the colourful beak and seek it out on my travels in my country.
The puffin is so popular amongst our foreign visitors that it has almost become the symbol of Iceland :)
Húsavík - the Whale Watching Capital of Iceland
Our ninth and last stop was at my beloved Húsavik, which has been called the whale watching capital of Iceland. Húsavík is the birth-town of my grandmother and her 14 siblings and I have fond memories from here.
The tour ended in Akureyri town, from where we had started, at ca 7:30 pm. A lovely tour, highly recommended if you want to see the highlights of the north in one day.
In 2016 I joined this tour again and have written another article on the Spectacular Diamond Circle in North Iceland with better photos :)